New study brings ancient giraffid Sivatherium back to life

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In a new study published today in Biology Letters, RVC researchers Chris Basu, Peter L. Falkingham and Professor John R. Hutchinson have digitally reconstructed the skeleton (and fleshed-out body) of a fossil relative of modern giraffes, Sivatherium giganteum, for the first time. From calculations based on their new model, the authors find that Sivatherium probably weighed in at around 1.25 tonnes (1250 kg), making it the largest ruminant to have ever lived. Compared with modern giraffes, the body is relatively shorter and squatter, with a much shorter neck but otherwise numerous anatomical similarities. The males also carried large bony structures on the head, similar to antlers, which may have contributed to the need for more robust legs but are absent today in the modern giraffe cousins of Sivatherium (which only have small nubbins on their head). The researchers hope that their reconstruction will enable further work on other aspects of early giraffid biomechanics, as well as studies of other sexual dimorphisms.

You can read the full paper here.

Ruminant: A mammal which digests plant material using fermentation processes in a specialised region of the stomach.

Sexual dimorphism: Anatomical differences between males and females of a species.


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